Sturgeon refers herself to watchdog in Salmond case
●First Minister says public need to be assured that she acted appropriately
Nicola Sturgeon has referred herself to the watchdog that polices the ministerial code over her handling of the government’s investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by Alex Salmond.
The First Minister is under pressure over a series of meetings and telephone conversations with Mr Salmond while the claims, which he denies, were being investigated.
The Scottish Government lost a legal challenge over its handling of the matter after it emerged that a civil servant in charge of the investigation had prior contact with the two women who lodged the complaints. The case has cost the taxpayer £500,000.
The allegations from two women remain under investigation by the police, who have spoken to staff at Bute House.
“It is in the interests of the women who have complained that the ongoing police investigations are allowed to continue without any risk of prejudice,” Ms Sturgeon said in a statement. “That must be the priority for everyone.
“Questions have been raised about my meetings and telephone calls with Alex Salmond during the Government’s investigation into the
“I have acted appropriately and in good faith throughout, and in compliance with the Ministerial Code at all times”
NICOLA STURGEON First Minister
complaints which were made. I have acted appropriately and in good faith throughout, and in compliance with the Ministerial Code at all times.
“However, I have reflected carefully and understand that it is also important for Parliament and the wider public to be assured of that.”
The independent panel, which consists of former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini and the former Director of Public Prosecutions in Ireland, James Hamilton, will be consulted on the remit of their inquiry into the First Minister’s actions.
Under the ministerial code, all meetings relating to government business must be set up by civil servants and officially recorded.
Ms Sturgeon added: “The fact remains that at the centre of this issue are two women whose complaints could not be swept under the carpet.”
Opposition parties are keeping up pressure for a parliamentary inquiry into the government’s handling of the complaints.
“To be clear, there is no reason why such an inquiry need impact on the separate police investigation into Mr Salmond,” Scottish Conservative interim leader Jackson Carlaw said. “And any attempt by the SNP to use that separate inquiry to evade legitimate questions would be quite wrong,”
Mr Carlaw added: “Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of this matter over the last week has been absolutely abysmal.
“It strongly suggests that the Scottish Government is trying to hide the facts in order to save the First Minister’s skin and today’s statement only adds to that impression.
“It is time for the First Minister to stop dodging and accept that finding excuses to avoid the many wider and important questions will not wash. It’s time to front up.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Transparency is now absolutely essential in order for the public to have confidence in the First Minister and the Scottish Government.
“That is why we should also see a full, public parliamentary inquiry in to what exactly has happened – and I look forward to working constructively with members from other parties this week in order to secure that.
“It is also now essential that the Scottish Parliament is given the power to fully review the outcome of this investigation into whether Nicola Sturgeon has broken the Ministerial Code.”
Mr Leonard added: “At the centre of all of this are two courageous women who put their faith in a system that has badly let them down, and we must never lose sight of that, by safeguarding the duty of care to them and their access to justice. We must restore trust and confidence in the system.”
Meanwhile, it has emerged that a criminal investigation is underway over the leak of details about the allegations to a tabloid newspaper. The Information Commissioner’s Office confirmed that the Scottish Government is at the centre of an investigation into possible breaches of the Data Protection Act.
0 Nicola Sturgeon held meetings with Alex Salmond while sexual harassment claims, which he denies, were being investigated